Category Archives: Dining

Bucket List Farm Dinner

I still remember a conversation I had with my sister when I was in college when she told me about this thing she heard on Oprah. The idea was to create a dream list with the things you’d really love to do in life, both big and small, and you would highlight or cross things off as you go. It’s similar to what people call a “bucket list,” I guess, although the focus is less on the “before you die” part and more on turning your dreams into reality.
I still remember sitting at the table in the dining nook of my studio apartment making my first one – I’ve made several since then, revising them as my goals and dreams in life change and grow. I always keep the lists, even if I’ve decided that the things on the list don’t really serve me anymore. On Tuesday, I was able to cross something off my most current bucket list and the experience couldn’t have been more magical.
Tuesday was one of those days when it started out cloudy and the sun broke through the clouds just in time for the drive over and the event. It was the kind of day when everyone else’s attitude around you seems to align with yours. I didn’t have to try to hang on to my good mood when confronted with someone else’s grumpiness. Contentedness was all around me. When I picked up Nicole for the ultimate of girly dates, my enthusiasm was matched by hers ten fold. I knew I couldn’t have chosen a more grateful and enthusiastic friend to join me.
Nicole’s the kind of friend who can appreciate my nerdiness when I do things like pull over to take a picture of the adorable clap board sign showing us the way. She totally gets me and was cheering me on to savor the moment as much I could.

She’s the kind of friend who knows me and my style so well, she slapped me on the butt and yelled, “Bunting!” when she saw the lovely mustard-colored fabric triangles that greeted us in the yard where we’d enjoy our first glass of wine and an appetizer of grilled fava beans.
My experience at Old Chaser Farm, which is co-farmed by chef Matt Dillon of Sitka and Spruce (you know how I feel about that!) and farm manager Pierre, was a contrast to my usual experience in the yard. This wasn’t a time to work or get things done, but rather an opportunity to stop, drink some delicious wine, take in the beautiful surroundings and totally enjoy myself. I got that feeling the moment my Toms hit the gravel driveway. I had arrived.
I arrived with my sassy red plate in tow – a tradition of Outstanding in the Field that dates back to 1999. Guests bring their own plates (or borrow one at the event), which contributes to the electic look of the striking long communal table that was situated in the middle of their orchard.
Before the meal began, Matt, the host farmer and co-chef of the evening (Emily Crawford Dann of the Corson Building also contributed to our amazing meal), gave us a tour of the farm. On top of the respect I already had for the quality of the food I’ve had at his restaurant, I was blown away by what an integral part Matt plays on the farm. In his opening remarks, he mentioned at one point having a small garden and some chickens and now he is working the land on this farm, evidence that a dream like mine really can come to fruition.
As they work to make more and more of the land on the farm productive, they focus on preservation, efficiency and preference. They grow what they like to eat and cook with and what they can put up via canning. That was evident in our meal as we were able to try a myriad of pickled goodies like pickled cherries, fiddlehead ferns and green tomatoes.
Every platter, which was served family style to be enjoyed by the people who surround you, was amazing. So many fresh and foraged vegetables mixed with the saltiness of preserved vegetables from seasons past.
So much delicious protein like whey braised goat and smoked dried pig. We even had salmon, which was wrapped in vine leaves and cook on cedar planks. Four delicious course with four amazing wines and I was beyond satisfied.
And then came dessert. The dessert was so unexpected and delicious – Matt and Emily’s play on milk and cookies – sesame cookies, which were crumbly and delicious, served with a little glass of cherry leaf, hazelnut and honey “milk.” I don’t really know how to describe it except to say that it was sort of like when I make my own almond milk, as far as texture goes, but tasted like a glass of nutella.
Needless to say, Nicole and I floated home with full bellies and permagrins. I went to bed extremely happy, but not before I crossed “attend farm dinners” off my list.

Terra Plata

I went to the NW Flower and Garden Show again this year for a little pre-spring time inspiration. A friend and I played hooky from work and went for the opening day. It never ceases to amaze me how crowded it can be, even on a weekday. Much like last year, the moment I walk into that convention center, I have an unconscious agenda – to seek out all things edible, sustainable, and reusable or repurposed. I could care less about the fanciful ornamentals, but a display of edibles and urban farming will stop me in my tracks. Inevitably, I end up stopping by the booths of my favorite local businesses I already support.

I didn’t see too much that really inspired me this year, although the terrariums were lovely. If last year was the year of the succulent, this year was most definitely the year of the terrarium. I think I need to find a place in my fence to put a terrarium porthole.

The best part of the day for me though was lunch. On our way to another place we had in mind, we took a detour to Terra Plata instead, a restaurant in the Melrose Market that has been on my list since it opened. At a thick, rustic table with wood chairs that needed a little muscle to move, we had the most delicious lunch.

We shared a delicious arugula beet salad, a most fitting starter to try considering my newfound taste for beets, thanks in part to recipes from Tender. The nonalcoholic citrus fizzes were delightful too.

Originally, I had my eye on the farro risotto, but when our waitress told us about the day’s special, a rabbit and root vegetable “pot pie” with a cheesy drop biscuit on top, I was sold. I’m a mission to develop a better sensibility for how to cook rabbit since I plan to incorporate them into my urban farm this year. If the rabbit I cook is as good as the rabbit I ate for lunch, it will be a most worthwhile endeavor.

I’m not quite ready to cross this one off the list just yet. I told Jeremy we should put this on our list for date night and I think we should keep it that way. After all, I only sampled the lunch menu. Who knows what seasonal goodness awaits me for dinner?


Hope for a Better Tomorrow

The event email for the show, To Savor Tomorrow, said, “Dress to impress.” I went with a little vintage number I pull out especially for such special occasions. To say I was excited for this girly date with Nicole would be an understatement. Nicole makes a good foodie companion – she’s good at taking her time, savoring the moment, and matching my enthusiasm for amazing food. I really had no idea what to expect, but I knew we were both game to have the best food trip we could. And I can say with certainty that that’s exactly what we did.

The silhouette of Chef Nordo on the window was how we knew we had made it to the right place. It was a beacon in an otherwise nondescript building in Fremont. We were a little early, but just in time to find our seats in the Pan Am-esque theater where tables and vintage chairs were lined up against the walls to mimic the interior of a plane, a plane destined to Seattle for the World’s Fair. It was a communal dining experience – you sit with other like-minded diners unless, of course, you came as a group and reserved a whole table. It was apparent that the other diners had gotten the “Dress to impress” memo too. People were dressed to the nines, most in 50s and 60s attire appropriate for the occasion. Hats, gloves, pearls, skinny ties – the willingness of the show’s patrons to visually participate in the experience made it that much more amazing.

We were greeted by gracious flight attendants that made sure we were met with our first drink, the first of four in a flight of vintage cocktails, all of which were part of the show. The first one, cruising altitude, was our favorite, a mix of Prosecco and some delicious liqueur. The drink was served with delectably spiced “airline” peanuts, which we shared at our table. To not eat the entire bowl myself was an act in self control.

What really sets this dinner show apart from others is the fact that the food and drinks are part of the show. The idea was not to mindlessly inhale food and drink while being entertained, but rather to be fed in an act of developing the plot. Each course, influenced by the different countries highlighted in the Bond-like story, became part of the show, carried out to diners by the actors themselves. A familiar chime would sound over the speakers and sure enough, it would be our captain speaking to us from the cabin to let us know we were about to enjoy our next course. Nicole said it best when she said, “If only they could have mimicked the drop in your stomach you get from turbulence.”

The food was unique and definitely an experience. This is not the sort of dinner you go to when you want to fill up and be done with it. No, this meal was long and drawn out, almost on purpose it seemed, to give you time to anticipate your next course. A dinner like this was not the place to be picky or have a “thing about texture” like the girl beside me who politely picked around the “Deconstructed Dim Sum,” a gelatinous “soup” turned out onto a fresh won ton. I’ll agree it pushed my food comfort zone a little too, but I was game to be open-minded to whatever was placed before me. “It’s like we’re living out this guy’s psychedelic food dream!” Nicole was absolutely right.

Clearly, it was a memorable experience, but what stood out to me the most was the unexpected message of the show. One of the show’s characters, a passionate food scientist of the 60s, gave monologues about the Green Revolution, genetically modified crops, and other changes and exciting developments that would revolutionize our food world for the good!  She spoke with the kind of excitement and hope you might imagine the scientists of that time felt about their new discoveries.

And all the while, we’re sitting in the theater, in the future times they were referring to, aware of the consequences of those exciting developments. We’re the real characters aware of how the story really turns out. In the darkness of this dinner theater, I came to realize that the moral of the story was to be more conscious of your actions and recognize that we really won’t know what impact our actions will have until we are living in the aftermath. It’s easy to get really excited about our ideas and developments and think they’re going to be the best for the future, but honestly, we really don’t know what the outcome will be.

So in the end, I left the show contented, with a full belly and an even greater commitment to the food life I’m choosing to live. Feeling a little like George Bailey, I am reminded that the choices I make for myself, while small, have an effect on my community and on the future. The food I grow and share with others, the organic practices I use with my soil, the lessons learned I share on this blog – I may never know what impact my actions will have on our world and future generations, but I can make sure to make each choice with thoughtfulness and good intentions. Because I’m not just nourishing myself right now, I’m cultivating the hope of a better tomorrow.

Savor This!

Just about a year ago, I stumbled upon this nugget of information about Cafe Nordo in a Sunset magazine. You may remember me whining about why I hadn’t heard about it before. I promptly got myself on Chef Nordo’s email list to be notified when he planned on hosting another multi-course theater experience and that time has finally come. I am beyond excited to be going to the latest show on Thursday night. It’s called To Savor Tomorrow. Just look at what they’ve got in store!

This fall, Café Nordo follows the sold-out smash success of Sauced with To Savor Tomorrow, the second in Café Nordo’s Cocktail Show Series. Café Nordo will transform Fremont’s newest performance venue, West of Lenin, into the in-flight lounge of Pan Am Flight 892 from Honolulu to Seattle. Flight 892 touches down in Seattle on the opening day of Century 21, the World’s Fair where fantasies of the future become reality with “The Car of Tomorrow”, “The Home of Tomorrow”, and “The World of Tomorrow”.

Passengers will enjoy a flight of original cocktails perfectly paired with four small plates of modernist international cuisine inspired by the food of fifty years ago, all re-imagined with the finest ingredients and the magic of molecular gastronomy by the incomparable Chef Nordo Lefeszcki. Composer Annastasia Workman channels Henry Mancini to score the flight. And on board, Soviet, Chinese, British, and American agents hide amongst the gorgeous Pan Am staff in a story of international espionage worthy of a Bond film.

I’m not telling you all this to make you jealous. I wanted to make you privy to this info because according to the latest email I’ve gotten from said Chef, there are still tickets available! Plus, they’ve added two nights to the line up – November 25th and 26th. Now, like I said, I haven’t actually gone to one of his dinner shows yet, but if it’s anything like this review or this one, it’s going to be a night to remember. And I don’t want you to be left out of all the intrigue…